Health
 Ethiopia
Project #8847

Shot@Life

by United Nations Foundation
Vetted

November 11, 2016 was World Pneumonia Day. Shot@Life recognized this important day along with other vaccine partners, using the hashtag #StopPneumonia. Pneumonia – a lung infection caused by bacteria, viruses and, more rarely, fungi – is the number one cause of death in children worldwide. Every year an estimated 156 million new cases of pneumonia and nearly 2 million deaths from the disease occur in children under 5 years of age.  The impact of this disease is not distributed equally between populations – the poorest and most marginalized children bear the brunt of the effects, with 99% of pneumonia deaths occurring in developing countries.  Fortunately, pneumonia is preventable and there are steps people around the world can take to reduce the global burden of pneumonia.

  • Exclusive Breastfeeding – Not only does breast milk promote sensory and cognitive development in infants, it can also protect them against infectious disease.  At birth, a baby’s immune system is relatively fragile and sensitive, but through breastfeeding they can acquire passive immunity from their mothers.  The antibodies present in breastmilk help protect against disease causing bacteria and viruses until the baby can produce their own antibodies. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of a newborn’s life.
  • Vaccination – Vaccines are effective against some of the main causes of pneumonia. Two vaccines against bacterial pathogens – Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) – are currently available in many countries worldwide. If these two vaccines were given to all children, they could prevent more than half of the world’s cases of pneumonia.
  • Good Hygiene – The germs that cause pneumonia can easily be spread through person-to-person contact.  Good hygiene practices, which include thorough and frequent hand washing, coughing or sneezing into an elbow or sleeve instead of hands, and avoiding interaction with those who are sick can reduce the risk of developing the infection.
  • Reducing Air Pollution – In developing countries, one of the biggest threats to respiratory health is closer to home than many would imagine.  Currently, around three billion people cook and heat their homes using open fires and simple stoves.  The reduction of indoor air pollution in low-resource areas is seen as one of the strongest factors in reducing pneumonia-related morbidity and mortality.  Organizations like The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstovesaim to improve lives through clean and efficient household cooking solutions.

Vaccinating children against pneumonia is vitally important. However, no one form of prevention is a panacea against pneumonia.  These strategies, when implemented together, can drastically reduce risk of infection and improve quality of life in children all over the world.

- See more at: http://shotatlife.org/2016/11/12/4-steps-developing-nations-can-take-prevent-pneumonia/#sthash.zeGN5URx.dpuf

Thanks to the work of our UN partners, the world has made great strides towards ending polio and the disease has dropped 99.9% since 1988. However the world was saddened and surprised by a recent polio outbreak in Nigeria, which had previously been polio-free for nearly two years. The disease also remains endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The news of the recent polio outbreak serves as an important reminder that until every last child is vaccinated against polio, the disease will continue to pose a threat to the world. Now more than ever, we need to act.

This fall, Shot@Life is engaging all of our supporters in polio eradication efforts and that’s challenging each and every one of you to get out there and help us defeat polio for good through joining our Race to Erase, Shot@Life’s fall coast-to-coast activation. Starting today and in the lead up to World Polio Day, Race to Erase will challenge supporters to stand up to help protect kids from polio and eradicate this debilitating disease by fundraising and advocating to your members of Congress. 

What’s Race to Erase?

It is a 5K Run or Walk (or any other activity you desire) during the countdown to World Polio Day on October 24, 2016. 

If you want to join us:

Poliovirus is fast, but we can be faster.

It’s that simple. Find out more here.

Image Courtesy of GPEI
Image Courtesy of GPEI

A major global health event recently is set to take place. Between April 17 and May 1 155 countries will withdraw one oral polio vaccine and roll out—or “switch to”—another. This synchronized vaccine switch is unprecedented in both its scale and its speed.

What It Is

Countries that are currently using the oral polio vaccine (OPV) to protect children from polio will switch from using the trivalent oral polio vaccine, which includes live, but weakened strains from all three types of poliovirus (types 1, 2, and 3) and is delivered via two liquid drops in the mouth, to a bivalent vaccine that is delivered in the same way but includes strains from just 2 types of poliovirus: types 1 and 3. The type 2 strains of the virus are being removed from the vaccine because this type has been declared eradicated, meaning that it is no longer in existence anywhere on earth.

What It Means

The switch demonstrates just how close we are to eradicating polio once and for all. We have already eradicated one type of the virus, and the last case of wild poliovirus type 3 was seen over 3 years ago. Additionally, by removing the type 2 strain from the vaccine, we are also removing the risk of this vaccine strain causing the rare instances of vaccine-derived polio that we’ve seen in the past. We are truly closing in on all aspects of this crippling disease.

How You Can Get Involved

Learn more: This is just a brief overview of the switch, but there is so much more! To learn more about polio vaccines, why the switch is necessary, and why it’s important to keep using oral polio vaccines until we eradicate polio, watch these short videos produced by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Advocate: Financing for the switch and for other crucial global health efforts wouldn’t be possible without people like you advocating for them and donating to the cause. We need your help to end this disease.

Tweet this: We are so close to #endpolio. Please support giving children around the world a @ShotatLife #vaccineswork

And please spread the word by sharing this post!

Photo: Gavi/Isaac Griberg
Photo: Gavi/Isaac Griberg

Immunisation as the gateway to health: why women hold the key in Pakistan

This post originally appeared on Gavi’s blog, Vaccineswork. Author Anuradha Gupta is Deputy CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Her name was Nusarat. She was young and petite with gleaming, hopeful eyes – the only thing I could see from behind her veil. She had a four-month-old baby on her lap whom she had brought in to be vaccinated. She told me she was 22 years old, got married at 20 and had two children in quick succession. As she was not happy with the situation, she had now decided to start family planning. When I asked what contraception she used, she blushed and said “we are doing something”.

She also told me that her first child was not vaccinated until she, on a friend’s advice, came to get a tetanus shot during her second pregnancy. Only then was she informed about child vaccination and its benefits. It was clear that Nusarat would not talk about these personal issues unless it was to a woman who seemed friendly and supportive.

Several young mothers like Nusarat were waiting patiently and silently for their turn at the crowded immunisation site in a large slum in Lahore. The male vaccinator was concentrating on giving shots to the children, somewhat mechanically. Still, it was rewarding to see children receiving protection against life-threatening diseases. Child mortality rates remain high in Pakistan – more than 1,000 children die every day before celebrating their fifth birthday, and vaccine-preventable diseases account for half of these deaths (pneumonia causes 27% of child deaths and diarrhoea another 20%, with measles and meningitis also claiming many young lives).

It was hard to argue with the vaccinator’s single-minded focus on injecting vaccines. The site was cramped, most women were inhibited in communicating with him and he had to simultaneously vaccinate and fill in the details of each child in the register on his table. Concentrating on the task at hand, he did not encourage any conversation.

But the scene left me with several questions. Does the fact that Pakistan only has male vaccinators inhibit coverage? Do some women find approaching a male vaccinator a barrier that is difficult to cross and therefore decide not to take their children to be vaccinated? Are precious opportunities for integration with other health services being lost unnecessarily?

In most countries supported by Gavi, it is customary to have female frontline health workers. Often they do not only vaccinate children but also take the opportunity to talk to mothers about a range of maternal and child health issues. Even though we would all like to see fathers more involved in childhood immunisation, in reality it is still almost always mothers who bring their children to vaccination sessions.

Understandably, it is easier for women to have a conversation with a female health worker around issues of contraception or breastfeeding. In a cultural setting like Pakistan, in particular, where women may be diffident and constrained in their communication with unfamiliar men, not having female vaccinators could be a serious missed opportunity for delivering immunisation together with other reproductive, maternal and child health services.

There is increasing recognition that immunisation can be the gateway to a range of other health services. Vaccination can be leveraged to bundle services and generate broader awareness, not just around reproductive, maternal and child health but also issues like sanitation, nutrition and hygiene.

During my previous visits to Laos and the Democratic Republic of Congo, I saw efforts in this direction. Another example is my own country, India, which has repositioned immunisation days as Village Health, Sanitation and Nutrition Days. The aim is to mobilise the country’s 150,000 female frontline health workers to use outreach immunisation sessions more effectively to the benefit of mothers, children and communities.

Pakistan has already started training its Lady Health Workers to provide immunisation, replacing the current model of male-only vaccinators. This could be a turning point for expanding immunisation coverage through better communication and trust-building with mothers. Immunisation sessions could then finally be used to their full potential.

In advance of World Pneumonia Day, November 12, Shot@Life hosted Dr. Namala Mkopi, an attending pediatrician and child health specialist from the Muhimbili National Hospital in Tanzania. Dr. Mkopi gave personal accounts detailing his encounters with pneumonia and discussed the challenges and successes of the pneumococcal vaccine for children in developing countries.

Pneumonia accounts for nearly a million deaths each year, half of which are vaccine-preventable. According to Dr. Mkopi, preventing pneumonia is of paramount importance as there are many obstacles standing in the way of receiving effective medical care for those living in developing countries.

"As a pediatrician, who is working in Tanzania, what you would call… third world countries, we face a lot of challenges, but what we have learned over time is not running away from the challenges, but to face them and when you face the challenges, some of them are a little bit hard to overcome, but we have adopted the means of not giving up," said Dr. Mkopi.

"So before the vaccine, a number of children that you would find in my ward, who would need oxygen support, it was a lot," recounted Mkopi. "And most of the time you find yourself running out of oxygen because so many kids need [it]. Unlike what you have in the U.S. where you have oxygen plugged in to the walls, we usually use oxygen cylinders and we had some oxygen concentrators...but you know with the electricity shortage in our setup, it can be a bit of a problem. But again we don't have enough to support every other child who needs it."

Preventing pneumonia is an important focus of the United Nations and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Tackling the disease has played a critical role in global efforts to reduce childhood mortality. The worldwide introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine marks an historic milestone in global health, as these new vaccines have been made accessible in record time to children in the world's poorest countries.

"I felt so happy that finally what any pediatrician who was practicing in our setup should be happy to see — a pneumococcal vaccine in place so at the end of 2012 it was launched, and by January 2013, children of Tanzania [were getting] the vaccine," said Mkopi. Mkopi has since become an advocate for child health in the fight against pneumonia and other infectious diseases.

"Being a pediatrician," said Mkopi, "one would think it's easy, you have it all sorted out, you're confident and comfortable with what you see, but again I'm not just a pediatrician, I'm also a parent. I have a child. All these, what I've been seeing over the years, it lets me become scared. As a doctor, I am scared of what's going to happen to my child. So all the time when I talk about pneumonia and all the other diseases in childhood, I think of my child. I think what if that particular child is mine, what would I do? I would do everything and anything to make sure that my child's health is taken care of."

 

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Organization Information

United Nations Foundation

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.unfoundation.org
Project Leader:
Shannon Aud
Washington, District of Columbia United States

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